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My MiFi experience

I've recently been test driving a 3 (UK network provider) Mobile WiFi unit in conjunction with my iPad 16GB non 3G. On the eve of the UK iPad launch I'd like to share my thoughts, what impressed me and what annoyed me.

The premise is simple. The MiFi unit — about half the size and weight of an iPhone — acts as a bridge between 3's high speed 3G mobile signal and the iPad's WiFi antenna, effectively giving you much of the benefit of the iPad 3G but with a little more flexibility.

In practice MiFi does exactly this. I experienced no problems connecting to the MiFi and only a few issues in getting the MiFi to connect to 3's network. It's certainly not as instant as having a 3G radio built right into the device — the MiFi takes quite a number of seconds to get going — but then most iPad users who are considering the MiFi are likely to be connecting in fairly large clumps of time, whilst travelling to work on the train for example.

The range, battery life and physical sturdiness of the MiFi are just about spot on. I managed to get a good 8 hours of usage out of the MiFi and I don't recall ever going out of range whilst using it around the house and in the office.

I do have one problem with the MiFi

The user interface with its four colour-coded indicators, and tiny side buttons is a horrid. The MiFi should have just two buttons, one large and one small. A press of the larger button would boot up the mobile and WiFi connections, a press of the smaller button would disconnect/connect the the mobile signal. Add in a couple of spot LED's to indicate battery and signal strength and you're good to go. Instead operating the MiFi is a combination of long hold buttons presses whilst squinting at the seemingly random flashing lights. Yeah, it's not great.

UI issues aside, I can recommend the MiFi to anyone looking to connect an iPad, the occasional iPod Touch and any other WiFi only devices to a fast, reliable and cost effective mobile network.

Monthly tariffs start at £9.50 per month for 1GB per month on an 18 month contract. PAYG is £49 for the MiFi unit plus top ups.